Friday Factoids: Why It Hurts To Lose A Fictional TV Character

For the fans of the hit television series This Is Us, Super bowl Sunday was not just about the game, Justin Timberlake’s halftime performance, and the commercials.  It was the day we finally learned the backstory of one of the show’s beloved characters, Jack Pearson, and how he died.  As fans watched the show, it is likely that they experienced feelings of sadness and probably cried along with the thousands of other fans who were glued to their TV screen.

 

But why do fans mourn the loss of these TV characters? It has been suggested that fans of these TV shows use the characters as an escape from the stressors in their daily lives (Holmes, 2015).  Each week and even each season, fans tune into their favorite shows to see how the characters are developing in life. It is not surprising that many people begin to form an attachment to these characters and potentially even see some of themselves in the characters.

 

A study conducted on the end of television series and thus the subsequent death of beloved characters found that fans are most unhappy when loose ends are left about the fate of the characters.  This indicates that fans want a sense of closure with the characters’ stories and do not want to have to continue wondering, “What if.”

 

So know that when you feel sad that a beloved character is no longer on your favorite show, you are not alone, and it is likely that others around the world are having those same feelings.

 

References:

Cristel Antonia Russell, Hope Jensen Schau. When Narrative Brands End: The Impact of Narrative Closure and Consumption Sociality on Loss Accommodation. Journal of Consumer Research, 2014.

 

Holmes, L. (2015, April 29). Yes, Grieving Fictional Characters Is A Real Thing — Here’s Why We Do It. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/29/why-we-grieve fictional-characters_n_7152992.html

 

Anissa Pugh, MA, LPA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

 

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